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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Get Your Desk In Working Order

Straightening your desk at the end of the day might seem a lot like making the bed before you leave the house in the morning. Why bother when it’s just going to get messed up again as soon as you return, right?

But just as a bed with fresh linens and neatly tucked blankets is far more inviting than one with a ball of sheets kicked to the end of the mattress, so too a tidy desk with everything you need tucked neatly away can make work more appealing.

Since many of us spend more time at our desks during the week than we do in bed at night, it really is worth our while to make our workspace tidy and comfortable.

While we won’t insist on “hospital corners” we would like to offer some suggestions on ways to keep your work area organized that require little more effort than pulling up the bedspread and fluffing the pillows.

What Does Your Desktop Say About You?
Whether you’re working from a penthouse office or the reception counter, the first thing clients, customers and co-workers notice when they enter your workspace is your desk top.

Is it covered with heaping piles of unfinished work? Is it decorated with bean bag toys you got with the drive-through ‘kid’s meal’ you picked up at lunch? Is it so austere and devoid of any style that it looks like you might not be planning to finish out the week?

It doesn’t take a lot of time and energy to design a desk top that reflects both your style and your professionalism. Focus on a few essential elements.

  • Personal items. While a desktop should have a professional appearance, it’s certainly okay to reveal a little bit about who you are outside of the office. The key here is moderation. A framed photo of your child, spouse or even your dog is acceptable. A snapshot of you in a bikini drinking a margarita in Mexico tacked to your bulletin board is not.

  • Decorative items. If you’ve got room for it, there is nothing wrong with a few carefully chosen items that only exist to bring beauty to your workplace. A potted plant, a framed print on the wall, or a vase of flowers adds warmth and welcome. A dead plant, a poster picked up at the dollar store, or a wilting bunch of blooms might make people question your attention to detail.

  • Desk top tools. Especially in small workspaces, desk tools that do double duty as design features are a great way to add style without sacrificing space. A fashionable desk set or even just a pretty pencil cup can make your desk look coordinated but not cluttered. If you keep files on your desk, put them in colorful folders, or if you prefer a more clean, contemporary look, choose bright white. Avoid paperwork pile-ups by using a desktop sorter, or stacking trays.

Make Your Top Drawers Top Notch
My mother always taught me that true beauty came from within. With four daughters sharing one bathroom, she had good reason to promote the philosophy that it’s what is on the inside that counts. Nevertheless she made a good point. If your desktop is spotless, but your top drawer is full to bursting with decaying breath mints and business cards from people you have no intention of ever calling, you might need to work on your desk’s inner beauty.

For most people it’s just a matter of clearing out the accumulated junk and replacing it with necessary items ( HERE IS OUR LIST ). Once you’ve determined what stays and what goes (and what stays in theory, but is replaced with something newer and nicer), keep loose items contained with individual boxes or a sturdy drawer organizer.

Work Your Way Down
Fitness gurus tell us that an easy way to get more daily exercise is to simply take more steps. Park in the back of the lot. Walk to lunch instead of taking your car. Use stairs instead of the elevator. All good advice, unless you have a deadline to meet and every single file you need in order to complete your project is in a different cabinet, in a different office and on a different floor in your building.

Save time and energy (you can burn it off at the gym after work) by taking a good hard look at the files you’re storing in your desk drawer. Do you really need to keep a folder full of receipts from a business trip you took in 1998 at your fingertips? Do you really need to keep it at all?

Desk drawer file space should be reserved for Current Year, Current Accounts and Current Product Lines. Everything else can go to storage, or maybe to the shredder.

While you’re sorting it out, it may be a good time to freshen things up a bit with new hanging file folders in coordinating colors. Use your computer printer or a label maker to add a uniform, professional look to file tabs and folder labels.

Now Keep it That Way
Once you’ve got your desk in order, take a few minutes each day to keep it neat. Probably the best thing to do is simply put things away when you’re done with them, but if you can’t or won’t work that way, then at least make sure you put everything away before you leave for the day.

Keep a micro-fiber dust cloth in the back of your drawer to wipe off your desk, shelves and monitor, and, if your office doesn’t have a custodian, make sure that the trash, especially if it contains food, is emptied every day.

A beautiful and efficient workspace will make your work days more productive and pleasant…which may even help you get a better night’s sleep.

If one of our ideas or products works for you, or if you have a solution you’d like to share, please let us know at